Blogging the 2010s — 123 — December 2018

Yes, I know. Out of sequence …  But it does pretty much wrap up these posts selecting from the 2010s!

How many HSCs is that now?

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald two once-familiar faces illustrating They topped the HSC over the past 40 years – what are they doing now?

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Jason Hui (left) who topped the state in the 1988 HSC, is now a gastroenterologist and hepatologist in Sydney. 

I remember them both but not from Year 12 as 1988 I was at Masada College in St Ives.

Actually I have gone through 50 years of HSC, though out of the fray for the last eight. Some tutoring in Sydney’s Chinatown in 2010 was my last hurrah.

Now as for FIFTY years ago see Shire: Jannali, Cronulla, family.

1966 I began teaching at Cronulla High School, now in Scott Morrison’s electorate. My second HSC class there — and the second HSC ever! — have a reunion planned. I have been invited, but am not sure I can make it. Night-time events in Sydney are an issue for me these days, but I will surely be there in spirit.

Class of 1968 member Paul Weirick has also sent a list of those attending. Brought back lots of memories.  Fortunately, I had been able to attend a couple of events around the 50th anniversary of the school itself — so I haven’t totally missed out.

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1978 I was on secondment to teacher training at the University of Sydney, but knew the Class of 78 at Wollongong High.

1988 is already covered. 1998 I was at Sydney Boys High again. Also finishing my Grad Cert TESOL at UTS.

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Students at Sydney Boys High School sit their HSC English exam on October 25, 1981.

Photo from Essential Kids.

More on Jason Hui — found online.

HSC stars 10 years on  (Edited Extract From “Sunday Life” January ’99)

Jason Hui, 27, of Sydney Boys’ High, came first in the state in 1988 with 496. He studied 4U maths, 2U English, 2U physics, 2U chemistry and 2U economics and is a doctor.

When he arrived in Australia at 13, Hui’s English skills were poor. He started year 9 and could barely understand the teacher.

His parents had sent him and his older brother out from Hong Kong to study. They boarded with an Australian family throughout high school and their parents visited when they could. “If you come from overseas with the aim of studying and going to university, you tend to be very focused and less distracted by other things. As the HSC drew closer I just studied whenever there was time. But I loved maths, physics and chemistry so it wasn’t a burden.

“Working hard was the norm in my school. It was a fantastic year with a lot of very bright people—there were two 4-Unit maths classes. I think we all pushed each other along and there was a lot of competition. I’m sure I wouldn’t have done as well at another school.”

At the time, Hui was tossing up between medicine and engineering and says he probably chose medicine “because there were a lot of engineers in my family and I wanted to do something different.” Looking back, it was the right choice. I can’t imagine myself in anything different.

“The amazing thing about medicine is you never stop learning. At each stage you encounter new situations and you have new and difficult decisions to make. That’s what makes it so interesting.”

Hui did six years at Sydney University, sharing the University Medal with Mark Gorbatov (88)—a former Sydney Boys’ classmate who came second in the HSC in the same year with 495.

“When I did the HSC, people said it was the hardest exam you ever did. At Uni, you quickly realise that is totally untrue. Exams get harder as you become more advanced and studying and working at the same time is much harder. To work 9-10 hours a day and then get home, have dinner and spend three or four more hours studying is very difficult.”

And that sparks my memory! I recall — and this was before my getting expertise in teaching English as a second language — seeing in 1985-6 that Jason had a problem. I referred him to a then neighbour of mine in Chippendale — unfortunately I can’t recall his name: a delightful young man who was then doing Linguistics at Sydney University under the famous Professor Michael Halliday and Dr Jim Martin. The neighbour gave Jason some help with his English.

And the 2008 HSC?

Just to complete the set from the previous post: in 2008 I was tutoring some HSC candidates and others in Chinatown. Here is a sample:

My coachee was unfamiliar with the expression “can’t see the wood for the trees”, so I explained that it means losing sight of the whole pattern because details grow and grow at an alarming rate. This is a state many HSC students find themselves in. So how to guard against it?

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Photo by Neil Whitfield 2008: artificial forest at the Sydney Chinese Garden

Make sure you read and understand the course description. My coachee and I are working on the Frankenstein and Blade Runner pair. The first thing to note is that the module is called TEXTS IN TIME: TEXTS AND CONTEXTS. That is the wood.

This module requires students to COMPARE TEXTS in order to EXPLORE THEM IN RELATION TO THEIR CONTEXTS. It develops students’ understanding of THE EFFECTS OF CONTEXT and QUESTIONS OF VALUE…

Students examine ways in which social, cultural and historical context influences aspects of texts, or the ways in which changes of context lead to changed values being reflected in texts. This includes study and use of the language of texts, consideration of purposes and audiences, and analysis of the content values and attitudes being conveyed…

OK, that means:

1. You need to know what issues or themes of interest each text embodies. In our two, for example, one can think of: the moral/ethical issues in science and technology; the need for companionship or love; what it is to be human; what is “natural”… And so on. It does not greatly matter what the issues are, so long as they are important ones and are major issues in both Frankenstein and Blade Runner. Your teacher and your class will no doubt determine perhaps two or three big ideas to hang your readings on.

2. You need to appreciate what was being thought, said and done around the time each text was composed: 1818 in one case, and 1982 in the other. Consider also where each text was composed. How does what you discover about this explain why each text may have been composed? Be careful here. It can be tempting to write history or philosophy and forget about the actual texts. Not a good idea.

3. Having found an issue, explore where and how it is presented in each text. Don’t forget to be specific rather than general. Find key passages or scenes. Look closely at the techniques used in their making. Then ask “Why is this passage/scene like this?” What in the context may have shaped the way it has been done? What in the context made this issue of sufficient interest to the composer and his/her readers and viewers? Where does the composer stand on it? What does the composer regard as important, or troubling, or worth arguing for or against on this issue? Now you will be exploring values and attitudes.

4. There are also genre issues to think about: The Gothic, science fiction, dystopias, film noir… Why have these genres thrived at various points in history? Why have they persisted? What is the relation of our two texts to these genres?

It really is hard to coordinate all this thinking. Anyone who tells you the HSC has been dumbed down is just plain dumb! I know that I never had to do anything half as difficult in my final year of high school in 1959! The good thing is that the issues raised in these texts really are interesting – and important!

So, good luck. Also, any suggestions about how to organise the material in an exam-friendly way will no doubt be appreciated by others. You may use the comment space here for that, if you care to.

The truth is out there

Yes, you are also lucky. There is so much good material to explore, some of it suggested on my previous post on this….

Sixty years on

Yes, next year will mark sixty years since my final year as a student at Sydney Boys High. They had trams still then — I wonder if the troubled new ones will be running next year?

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See also 1959 revisited and The year my voice broke…, which refers to 1958.

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Recently I downloaded the latest Flying Higher — an excellent new publication. And look, my Maths teacher 1958-59 is still with us! He was my boss too from late 1985-1987, and then 1989 through the early 90s. He claimed, probably correctly, that I owed him a Maths assignment from 1958…

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Blogging the 2010s — 109 — November 2015

First a gratuitous image from The Gong:

Friday reflective 1: heat and memories

This series follows from the random memories summarised last Friday. It will be somewhat wider in scope. I begin today with the weather….

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That’s yesterday’s sunset from my window. Today promises 40C+. It is on track…

Today’s Sydney Morning Herald has an obituary that triggers many memories: Educator, sportsman and activist Ken Palmer had a knack for getting the best out of people. In my 2010 post More Cronulla High memories I wrote:

Sometime in 67-68 I was quite ill, actually. I recall saying to one class that if I fell off my chair to just carry me to the staff room! I was in fact suffering from malnutrition, having had hepatitis in 1964 and staying too long on a low fat diet. Some Vitamin B shots eventually fixed me, after one doctor had starved me further by mistakenly thinking I had a gluten allergy. I sure was thin at one point there. Yesterday’s photo must have been post-Vitamin B.

The Class of 1969 were also memorable, especially for debating, which I coached.

Good times and good people. Nice staff to work with too: Jack Morrison, Ken Palmer, Doug Goldstone, Paul Herlinger, Laurie Butterfield, Phyllis Wheeler, Geoff Borny, Debbie Townsend, Beth Kimball from Modesto, California, and who will ever forget Christine Fisher-Webster….

My youth led to one embarrassing moment when the Head of Science came out of his staff room and told me to quieten down. I was not wearing my jacket so he mistook me in my white shirt in a group of students also in white shirts for a pupil.

Today’s Herald:

In 1963 the family returned to Sydney when Palmer moved to Cronulla High School. He was then appointed head teacher (English and history) at Arncliffe Girls’ High, and later head teacher (history) at Blakehurst High and Kirrawee High. He suspended his school teaching for a couple of years in 1975 to accept a post lecturing in History Method on the University of NSW Diploma of Education program.

Palmer was then appointed deputy principal at Kingsgrove North and Port Hacking high schools, and became principal at Marrickville High in 1986.

As an educator, Palmer supported special school learning programs such as the successful “Write it right” initiative. English learning received particular emphasis, and Marrickville students scored well in the oral Shakespeare competitions. “Learning to learn” was another of Palmer’s passions, and he gave heart to many pupils who had been poor achievers.

As a manager, his people skills were outstanding. His staff pulled together and a positive atmosphere pervaded the school. In the broader school environment he was able to diffuse any potentially difficult situations with good humour and a few well chosen words…

It was his achievements as principal at Marrickville that brought him to the attention of the then Director of Metropolitan East Region, and in 1992 he was appointed as Cluster Director, Botany Cluster.

It was typical of Palmer’s humility that when first approached about leaving his beloved Marrickville High he expressed worries that his lack of experience in primary schools could be an impediment. He was quickly assured that it was not the type of school he taught in that had brought him to notice.

Rather it was his thorough understanding of teaching and learning coupled with his personal qualities of building relationships and getting the best out of people, regardless of their position or role. Palmer retired from teaching in 1994….

Ken crossed my path again in 1993 when I was engaged to do a research project on the teaching of reading in Botany Cluster. Lovely man.

Back in Cronulla Ken roped me into minute-taking at meetings of the Sutherland Teachers’ Association, despite my being at that stage a Liberal voter (only just!) and a subscriber to Quadrant. I also recall a hike with Ken and Dick Lynch up the Hacking River to Southwest Arm. Again today’s Herald:

Throughout his teaching career, Palmer still found time to participate in many community activities. His experience in country NSW gave him significant insight into the issues confronting indigenous people. He was also actively involved in the Reconciliation and Native Title movements. The Palmer house was one of generosity and a place of welcoming support and refuge. Many indigenous people were regularly welcomed there, sometimes simply to have a yarn or share a meal, at other times to live with the family for a while. The Palmer family was also a Host Family for visiting Colombo Plan students from 1970.

Ken and Jan become part of the team that established Kirinari Hostel at Sylvania Heights, to provide accommodation for young indigenous people from country districts to complete their studies in an environment that would help them reach their goals.

From Kirinari’s inception in 1967, Palmer was often called upon by the Aboriginal Houseparents and Kirinari Management Committee to give advice on a variety of issues. He was also passionate about human rights and he held an open and unqualified welcome for refugees.

He and Jan felt deeply the injustice of the policy of lengthy incarceration, and were regular visitors to Villawood Detention Centre. They undertook the hard nuts and bolts work of assisting incarcerated refugees with their freedom applications, health and other personal issues.

Politics was also an important part of Palmer’s life. He was a life member of the ALP, president of Caringbah Branch for many years, secretary at times and held many other positions on state and federal electoral councils….

Blogging the 2010s — 62 — June 2019

Mr Movies — and Cronulla High

Many of us noted Australia’s ‘Mr Movies’, Bill Collins, dies aged 84. When I (and Dick Stratford) were Dip Ed students at Sydney Teachers College, Bill Collins, already well known on TV, was a lecturer — in Latin! He also like all the lecturers supervised student teachers in their prac sessions, and one such he supervised towards the end of 1965 at Cronulla High. I was also in that prac group, but supervised by someone else. (I was on Brendan O’Connor’s classes.) I think there were three of us students. Bill was rather waspish in his comments on one of our number, and we didn’t approve. I recall us ganging up on him one day about the way he was treating that colleague, but it is fair to say he took it well.

In my October 2011 post Meanwhile in Sutherland in 1954… I recalled:

[In 1954] The Odeon was still a flourishing cinema presided over by a dragon in the form of Miss Collins, aunt of  the fabled Bill Collins. Here it is in the 1930s.

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BILL COLLINS: Oh, dear! I was born in a place called Sutherland, south of Sydney, in the Sutherland Shire. And I was born there on December 4, 1934. The house where I was born in is no longer in existence. But it was within easy walking distance of the Sutherland picture show where my Aunty Lil was an usherette and where I became a frequent patron.

In 1934 there was the Depression. I say sometimes in moments of anguish, “I’m a child of the Depression.” And money was not easy. Life was a little tougher. But I think we were a lot happier then. The 1940s was an extraordinary period. The war was on and there were terrible things that were happening. But we also enjoyed ourselves a great deal. There weren’t many of the tensions that exist in Australia today. I can remember so vividly the night the Japanese submarines came into Sydney Harbour. And that was quite an extraordinary experience because by that time we had a trench in our backyard, as most people did in Australia. It was the worst of all times, and the best of all times. My mother’s name was Rita May Collins. Originally her surname was Miller. And my father was William Michael Joseph Collins. That’s why I became William, or Bill. And sometimes I think my father was lacking ambition. He just wanted to be in the police force and he loved being in the police force. My mother, she was a teacher. And I learnt a lot from her. It was my mother incidentally who started my interest really in classical music, for example. And my mother, of course, encouraged my reading and all the other things that I did during those years. When I was young, I would rather go to see adult movies than go to children’s matinees. I guess I was about nine years old when I saw ‘Gone with the Wind’. And I’d never seen anything like it before. I’d seen other big films but ‘Gone with the Wind’ emotionally, I think, got through to me. And I still remember vividly, one of the greatest scenes ever conceived and put on the screen, where she vows never to be hungry again…

This makes Bill Collins just one year older than my brother, by the way. I might also mention that in 1965 Bill Collins, then a lecturer at Sydney Teachers College, was the supervisor of a colleague student teacher at Cronulla High – and we rather gave him hell, I recall, as we thought he was unfair to her…

That has got me thinking about Cronulla High again. I was appointed to the English and History staff there in 1966 and stayed until 1969. I had my first inspection there:

 I have been here in Elizabeth Street Surry Hills since 1992, and I brought quite a bit of unsorted rubbish with me. Some items go back, well, to Noah almost.

  • My first inspection report from Cronulla High School.

Mr W is an enthusiastic and resourceful teacher who is establishing good relationships with his pupils at all levels of the school.

His lessons are thoroughly prepared and informed: he uses a wide range of material and shows enterprise in presenting this material to pupils who respond well.**

Following advice earlier this year he has improved his supervision of pupils’ work, increasing his effectiveness in teaching. The results achieved in recent examinations testify to his successful teaching: the results in Form V History and Third Level groups in English V are especially commendable.

It is recommended that Mr W’s efficiency be determined as meeting the requirements for the award of a Teacher’s Certificate.

— E. Guthrie (Inspector) July 28, 1966

I see I had Forms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 English and Form 3 History  — That is Years 7-11 English and Year 9 History. No Year 12 as 1967 was the first Year 12 in NSW, and I took that (bottom) Year 11 class through.

** I am sure Eula Guthrie was not suggesting my lessons only worked with “pupils who respond well”! 😉

So I have been trying to recall my colleagues in the English Department in those years. Here is the list from 1969:

Looking at this list, what do I recall?

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Jack Morrison was a good old guy to have had as my first head of department. Phyllis Wheeler was totally amazing as a person and as a teacher. Soon after she moved on to the famous Frensham School in Mittagong….

Some other names that I also recall: Geoff Borny from Jersey in the Channel Islands — an interesting character, and what a career he went on to, Paul Herlinger — responsible for some great school drama productions, including a Hamlet that starred Robert Graves’s grandson:

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And more: Beth Kimball, an exchange teacher from Colorado who went on to tutor at Macquarie University then, I assume, returning to America.

Such a time it was of social change when I was 24, even in The Shire — where one Beth Kimball, an American teaching at Cronulla High School, introduced me to the following hitherto unknown exotica. Well, maybe not to the rose wine or the cappuccino, but they were new to me around that time.

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Hobbits

 bananacake carrotcake

Banana cake and carrot cake: both seemed quite odd things to do at the time…

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You would be surprised how hard it was for Beth to locate this piece of exotica. What was wrong with Bushells or LanChoo anyway?

Blogging the 2010s — 41 — April 2018

And special thanks to WordPress.com “Happiness Engineer” Herman who solved the problem whereby my wifi was blocking access to everything behind the scenes here.

Cronulla on my mind

Had an email the other day:

I just stumbled on an old webpage of yours that mentions Mt Keira, and its significance in Dharawal culture. You go on to describe the story of how Mt Keira and the Five Islands were formed. There’s a suggestion that you had just read about it in a book you had found in Wollongong Library. Would you be able to tell me which book it was?

Well, I did reply. Received another email just now:

Many thanks Neil,

After checking the two PDFs that you suggested, and doing a bit more searching, I was able to find the story in one of Michael Organ’s PDF’s, which gave the source of the story as featuring in the Illawarra Mercury in 1950.

So I think I was able to get to the source of the story that you mentioned in your blog, which has been very helpful to me.

My point of interest was in fact trying to find the origin of “Lilli Pilli” as in the place name, and since it turns up in that story with exactly the same spelling, I was very curious about it.

By the way, I’m sure it will interest you to know that I was a student at Cronulla High School, while you were teaching there, from about 1965 to 1970, although I was never in one of your classes, I remember you as (I think) a member of the English staff, is that right?

Almost right, except that 1969 was my last year. I had a great visit to the school for its 50th anniversary, and a follow-up lunch at Hazelhurst in Gymea. See posts tagged Cronulla.

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Shellharbour on my mind — Roy Christison

post on Facebook’s Shellharbour History and Pictures has generated this wonderful war-time picture of my uncle Roy Christison Junior, my grandmother Ada Christison, and my grandfather Roy Christison Senior in Sydney. (Note the tram!)  Posted by my cousin Linda Christison.

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In that same Facebook thread someone asked if anyone had seen a photo of Ada and Roy taken in the 1930s when Roy was headmaster of Shellharbour Public School. Well, I have: it is in my collection. That is the headmaster’s residence in Shellharbour.

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Those 50 year blues….

Well, not really, but when I consider these iconic images:

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Do I need to explain? Well, maybe: Abbey Road and Woodstock.

In fact, they impacted on Cronulla me less than you may think, I very possibly being a bit of a young fogey at the time and rather more interested in Bach or Handel. Mind you, there is no doubt both became part of me as we moved into the 1970s, and in my case to Wollongong!

Cronulla me: